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Junbert in front of the Bacolod City Social Development Center. Credits: Junbert Pabon

One young changemakers’ vision to transform lawbreakers into peacemakers

Each year the International Day of Peace is observed around the world on 21 September. The day, officially recognized in 2001 by Kofi Annan in his role as Secretary-General, is devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace through observing 24 hours of non-violence and cease-fire.

In honour of this year’s International Day of Peace, we are highlighting the story of young peacemaker Junbert Pabon, a Messenger of Peace Hero Award recipient and Kofi Annan Changemaker 2021.

The Messenger of Peace Hero awards were created in 2012 to recognize exceptional Scouts, volunteers and professionals for their outstanding work in creating a better world.

Junbert, a pre-med student from the Philippines, works to give children in conflict with the law a second chance. A “Child in conflict with the law” or “CICL” refers to a child who is alleged as, accused of, or adjudged as, having committed an offense under Philippine laws.


How it all started

In 2016, Junbert volunteered in a rehabilitation facility for 15- to 18-year-old children in conflict with the law.

Junbert felt that the infrastructure was not set up to rehabilitate the children effectively and, as such, was playing a part in issues such as reoffending, increased crime rates and violence. He also identified a distinct lack of support for the children, particularly related to their emotional and mental needs.

Taking a holistic approach

After seeing the issues firsthand, Junbert and his fellow scouts were motivated to implement a training and reintegration programme in their community. Junbert believes all children should be nurtured, including a CICL, which inspired him to start the “Holistic Development Program” to transform lawbreakers into peacemakers.

“…these children are innately good and are victims of their circumstance like poverty, peer pressure, parental neglect, or an unhealthy environment.” – Junbert Pabon

The Holistic Development Program (HDP) treats each child individually, tailoring its offering to their specific situation, background and needs to help them integrate back into their community with a positive mindset and new skills.

When young offenders are given relevant skills and opportunities, rehabilitation is proven to be more effective. When a CICL is welcomed back into the community and respected as a responsible, productive member of society, the likelihood of reoffending decreases. This contributes to a more peaceful, safer community where children are protected and their rights upheld.

Junbert (top row, fifth from left) and his fellow scouts. Credit: World Scout Bureau, Inc. / Enrique Leon

Expansion plans

The HDP, built in partnership with the Good Samaritan Helping Hands and Virlanie Foundation, has already proven efficient. A significant decrease has been observed in the number of cases of CICL reoffending after being released. Some former programme participants have also been reintegrated into the program as a part of a peer support group.

Improving the rehabilitation facilities has also been a key part of the reintegration process. With the help of the Kofi Annan Foundation, Junbert intends further to improve the facilities of the social development centres, creating an environment more conducive to development and nurturing.

Credit: Junbert Pabon

Junbert wants to take the program from a local to a regional level, replicating it in rehabilitation centres across the Philippines. His aim is for the HDP to become a nationally recognized rehabilitation program for young offenders.

“By working with more organizations, we can help CICL turn their lives around, giving them a second chance. One child and one rehabilitation center at a time.” – Junbert Pabon

Improving the rehabilitation process is crucial to transform societies: it benefits children and their communities. Junbert hopes local governments will soon pass a bill that includes holistic and transformational programs as a mandatory part of CICL rehabilitation.

Junbert in action

In June 2022 Junbert shared his experience of working with children and young people in juvenile detention when he addressed the United Nations General Assembly, urging them to include youth in decision-making to address crime rates.

Junbert also took part in Peace One Day’s Space Transformers event in December 2022, where he shared his experience as a changemaker working towards a more peaceful and sustainable world. Watch his interview below.

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